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    Letters to the Editors

    Open debate is scarce on campuses


    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 12, 2002

    Professor Kathleen Ochshorn's essay in the May 5 Times (Cautionary tale of past USF censure) fails to recognize that the American Association of University Professors long ago stopped "advancing academic freedom." Since the politicization of university faculties during the Vietnam War, there has been no "open debate about the most controversial topics" on college campuses even though, as Ochshorn rightly points out, it is the essence of academic freedom and "is essential if real learning is to take place."

    When Vietnam became a burning issue in the '60s, tenured faculties throughout the nation began enforcing an unwritten political orthodoxy on a host of matters not limited to the war itself. This practice has continued to guarantee uniformity of opinion and made a mockery of academic freedom to this day. The AAUP, pretending that there isn't any problem, has done nothing, thus forfeiting the high esteem in which it was once held when attacks on academic freedom came from outside our colleges, largely from right-wing politicians seeking to impress their uninformed constituents.

    Ochshorn's comments on Vietnam illustrate the point. If ever there was a closed subject on our campuses, it is the Vietnam War. Although she's an English professor, she feels no qualms in saying categorically that it was a war that the United States "could not win and should never have entered." She maintains that "anti-war protests helped the U.S. get out" of it. Having participated in many such protests, I can attest to the fact that there was no "open debate" then, and there still is none. If a history or political science professor, with or without tenure, took a different view of the war, the quiet sanctions would be severe.

    Vietnam, unfortunately, is one of a long list of topics at our colleges where there is a correct view and no discussion. It may surprise professor Ochshorn that, in fact, the Vietnam War is not a closed subject and that future historians may well take quite a different view of it than she does.

    The Sami Al-Arian issue -- which is complex and has not been well-handled by University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft, or anyone else, because Al-Arian has so skillfully used our system against us -- has allowed professors like Ochshorn to trumpet their commitment to academic freedom while effectively snuffing it out.
    -- George C. Daughan, Pass-a-Grille

    Floridians back gun control

    Re: A way to win back Southern Democrats on the gun issue, by Philip Gailey, May 7.

    Philip Gailey's claim that the "gun control issue is killing Democrats in the South" is wrong -- and even the NRA knows it. In a February 2001 fundraising letter, the NRA's chief lobbyist wrote, "In the new U.S. Senate we simply don't have the same number of pro-Second Amendment votes we had just a few months ago." The NRA made gun control an election issue in key Senate races like Florida, where pro-gun champion Bill McCollum was viewed as an extremist for his solid NRA voting record. The NRA candidate in that race lost -- pro-gun control Bill Nelson won.

    The people of Florida have spoken out on gun control with resounding support. In 1990, the Florida Legislature allowed consideration of a Constitutional Amendment that established a three-day waiting period on handgun sales by retailers. Despite opposition from the gun lobby, the amendment passed by an overwhelming majority: 84 percent. In 1998, Florida's Constitutional Revision Commission, placed an amendment on the ballot to allow counties to enact waiting periods and background checks on all firearm sales, designed to close the gun show loophole. On Election Day, Floridians once again showed strong support for gun control by passing the amendment with a wide margin: 72-28 percent.

    Americans for Gun Safety is currently pushing a federal gun show bill, sponsored by Sen. John McCain and Joe Lieberman, chock-full of NRA provisions left over from last Congress. Their "third way" approach, neither pro-gun or pro-gun control, is designed to appeal to both sides. But the bill is opposed by both the gun lobby and pro-gun control groups.

    There is a solution. The Gun Show Background Check Act (S. 767), sponsored by Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI, and 22 co-sponsors, including Sen. Bob Graham, is the one bill that would effectively close the gun show loophole nationally as we have already done in Florida. Now is not the time for back-pedaling on meaningful gun control. It's not some "third way," it's the right way.
    -- Bill Newton, interim executive director, Florida Consumer Action Network, Tampa

    Voting for gun rights

    Re: A way to win back Southern Democrats on the gun issue.

    Again you try to demonize the NRA. You claim it opposes even the most sensible gun control measures. How so? We have every concievable law on the books regarding the legal and illegal use of guns. What more laws do we need? Now we need more gun safety? What in the world do you think the NRA has been preaching for years?

    You also drag out the latest skewed poll from the illustrious group Americans for Gun Safety, a k a the Millionaires Club Opposed to American Freedoms. Who exactly did it poll to come out with a number like 16 percent of voters believe gun ownership is an absolute right? The liberal media?

    Everyone I know believes in the Second Amendment and its conveyance of that right to the individual in order to protect one's self and family. The AGS believes there is a "third way" to reach its objective (which is disarming Americans), and that is to couch its agenda in a smoke screen: "gun safety."

    If Democrats want more votes, they should ditch any ideas about gun control no matter how it is labeled, put their tax packages and plans in their back pockets and do something for the American public they are supposed to represent.
    -- Don Dickson, St. Petersburg

    Give GOP a chance

    I laughed right out loud when I saw the May 5 story, Blacks: Jeb will pay for 2000. Leave it to the Times.

    Had to go to Jacksonville -- uh, why? Because the majority of the black community in our area believes the right person was elected for governor and for president. Too long have blacks given undying loyalty to the Democrats and too long are their complaints still the same. The Democrats have taken their votes for granted. Jeb and George W. have acknowledged their issues and are making a difference.

    What did Lawton Chiles or Bill Clinton do for the African-Americans? The new thinking is to give Republicans a chance. The worst that can happen is the same old thing that happened for all the years Florida had a Democrat governor and leadership.
    -- Nancy J. Riley, St. Petersburg

    Problems with implants

    Re: Mover & shaper, by Leonora LaPeter, May 5.

    To all women who were encouraged to consider breast implant surgery after reading this article, beware! Your plastic surgeon is unlikely to tell you that implants may prevent the early detection of a breast cancer in years to come. As you make your decision, please take these facts into account:

    1. Up to one-third to one-half of your breast tissue will be forever hidden from the watchful eyes of the radiologist who reads your mammograms. The density of implants blocks visualization of the tissue, even when they are placed behind the muscle and even when they are saline.

    2. Twice as many films must be taken to complete a mammogram on woman with implants.

    3. These extra films require that the technologist push your implant against your chest wall while she pulls your own tissue forward under the compression paddle. These films are very difficult to reproduce and are therefore difficult to compare year to year.

    4. When you develop capsule contracture as a long-term complication of the implant, mammography becomes even harder to perform and more inaccurate.

    5. Implants do not make breast cancer easier to detect on physical examination.

    During your lifetime (assuming you live a normal life expectancy), you have a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer. Please consider this risk when you make a decision that will last a lifetime.
    -- Barbara Hall, MD, Medical Director, Susan Cheek Needler Breast Center, Morton Plant Hospital, Clearwater

    Read about the risks

    Re: Mover & shaper.

    In your article, no detailed breast implant risks are mentioned. These risks are described in two free FDA documents. These documents are: the book Breast Implants, An Information Update 2000 and the brochure Breast Implant Risks; both are available online at http://www.FDA.gov/CDRH/ breastimplants/ or by phoning 1-888-463-6332.

    Some of the risks include deflation and rupture, contamination from mold and bacteria, difficulty diagnosing cancer with mammography and possible rupture due to pressure from the mammogram machine, and many others. Will these problems be covered by insurance? Does Dr. Dan Diaco inform his patients of all of these risks and that the shell containing saline implants is made from silicone? In addition, FDA book notes that, "Breast implants are not a lifetime device and cannot be expected to last forever.

    Your article mentions Bubba the Love Sponge. Why would any intelligent doctor want to be associated with Bubba and his "12 Boobs of Christmas" contest?
    -- Lee Silverstein, retired RN, and Marvin Silverstein, St. Petersburg

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